Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category


You Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Reviewed by Marianne van der Wel

Richard Walker has died. His ex-wife Caroline and their children, Minna and Trenton, have just arrived at his country house for their inheritance. But they are not the only ones in the house.

Long-dead former residents Alice and Sandra are there as well, watching while the Walkers try to sort through the detritus of Richard’s past.

All of them are haunted by secrets of their own, secrets that are trying to get free, because everything surfaces in the end.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver is set up like a house tour. You slowly go through it. In each new room memories resurface and the characters move towards the inevitable revelations of their secrets. All the characters reveal a bit of their stories at a time. At the start it feels a bit fractured, but once everyone has had their first say, you can start to see the bigger picture.

In the beginning of the story I did not like any of the characters. They all seemed petty and self-absorbed. But as it unfolded, my dislike of them became less. You get to know them and they become more human. Unfortunately, this made the beginning of the book a bit dull, and even irritating at times. I’m glad I kept reading, though. It’s a tragic story, with its own sort of happy ending. It’s the best the characters could have hoped for.

In the end I really liked this book. There isn’t much in the way of character development, but that is not what it’s about. You have to give the character a chance to tell their story. And this story is told in a very natural way. You can feel the slow build of nothing to suspenseful, and finally the satisfaction of knowing that everyone is where they should be. This is a very special kind of ghost story.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

There is no ebook of Rooms available yet, but there are ebooks of Lauren Oliver’s previous work: Before I Fall, Delirium (but not the rest of that series, sadly), Panic, Liesl & Po and Spindlers.

Richard Flanagan wins the 2014 Man Booker Prize!

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Congratulations to Richard Flanagan for winning the 2014 Man Booker Prize with The Narrow Road to the Deep North (ebook available here)!

This year marked the first time that any writer could win it, regardless of nationality, so long as the book was originally written in English and published in the UK.

The head of this year’s jury, A. C. Grayling, had this to say about the book:  ”The two great themes from the origin of literature are love and war: this is a magnificent novel of love and war. Written in prose of extraordinary elegance and force, it bridges East and West, past and present, with a story of guilt and heroism.  This is the book that Richard Flanagan was born to write.”

The 2014 Man Booker shortlist can be found here, and the longlist here.

Other novels by Richard Flanagan: Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish, The Unknown Terrorist and Wanting.

Prize draw winners: Shopaholic, Stephen Fry + Plenty More

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Win a copy of Shopaholic to the Stars winners: Marleen Blom, Liselore van der Zweth, and Cynthia Kaspers

Q: Which movie star would you like to dress and why?

“The moviestar I would like to dress is Brad Pitt, so I can look at him all the time! haha”

“I would dearly like to dress Jemima Kirke. Her bohemian look is so carefree, yet so gorgeous! It would be hard to improve upon it, but I would be sure to find boho gems such as kimonos and one-of-a-kind accessories :)

Bella Thorne, because of her beautiful red hair, a challenge I think to give her a nice makeover without changing her hair color.”

Win a copy of More Fool Me by Stephen Fry winner: Jasmina Suljanovic

Q: If you could pick the next book that Stephen Fry reads, what would it be and why?

“It is very hard to recommend a book to read for someone who, I presume, knows (of) pretty much everything I’d think he’d find interesting and thus has probably read every book I can think of. I first thought of The Undutchables by Boucke and White, so he can read about us crazy Dutch people. Then I thought, isn’t there a book in English about our Dutch renaissance man, Boudewijn Buch, but the only book I found was in Dutch. Then again, maybe he’d like to read some fiction, to wind down a bit.
So the book I pick to recommend to Mr. Fry that he might like to read next is To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. I picked this book because it combines several areas of interest he has. It takes place in the near future, which Mr. Fry with his love for gadgets and new inventions might like. But it also takes place in the past, because in the near future they have invented time travel. So, the main characters travel back to a period I believe Mr. Fry likes, which is the Victorian age in England. And as a bonus it contains a theme Mr. Fry has used himself, that is, changing the past through time travel. Coupled with suspense and humor, I think this is a book he might like to read next.”

“If I could recommend Stephen to read anything it would be Brodeck’s Report by Philipe Claudel.  This book is about us, the way we are, the way we sometimes forge our own past to be forgiven, about the way we treat each other. This book is about hate and how much pain we inflict in the name of that hate. This book is about society that does not accepts anyone that is different. This book is about the guilt.  This book had me at the opening line: ‘My name is Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it.’
If he did not already, hope one day Stephen will read it.
Philippe Claudel is an amazing writer, and not only that, he is painter, director (I’ve Loved You So Long and Tous les Soleils, translated into English as Silence of Love), screenwriter. He also worked in prison as a teacher and his experience from working in prison helped him in writing Brodeck’s Report. I hope more people would be interested in reading this book and others by him.”

“I’d pick the sharp and hilarious Watching The English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior. I’d love to know what he thought of the book!”

“Stephen Fry should read Hella S. Haasse. She’s the grand old lady of Dutch literature.  For me her masterpiece is In a Dark Wood Wandering, a historical novel-biography of Charles d’Orléans.  But her works set in the Dutch East Indies are more part of our own heritage.”

“If I could pick the next book that Stephen Fry should read, I’d pick To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. It’s truly mesmerising.”

“I feel the next book Mr. Fry reads should be The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.  Like Mr. Fry, Oscar Wilde was a witty gentleman who liked to comment on (or rather: make fun of) British high society. The Importance of Being Earnest deals with people who try to get out of all sorts of social events they find boring, by using manipulation and lies. Mr Fry confessed to have used cocaine in order to deal with such boring occasions in the past, but maybe he could learn a few white lies from this book instead? Besides, Mr. Fry is a busy man and the book happens to be very thin, leaving Mr. Fry enough time to make more entertaining episodes of QI and interesting documentaries – which is good for all of us!”

“What I think Stephen Fry would like to read next is not easy to say. He probably has read anything that I would suggest.  If he has not read it already, I think that he would enjoy The Lotus Eaters by Tatiana Soli. The story around the journalist in Vietnam is so well told and beautiful that I can’t imagine him not enjoying reading it. If this quiz is intended for offering suggestions to him, I hope he does read this one.”

“If I could pick the next book that Stephen Fry reads, it would be Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle.  I’m extremely eager to read it (it was just released only days ago). John Darnielle plays in the band The Mountain Goats, and he’s one of my favourite lyricists. His writing is realistic and very strong, but humorous and unique as well. I can’t wait to see him work his talents in a different medium.”

“As a wild admirer of everything Stephen Fry, based mainly on his humour, intelligence and brutal honesty, I would suggest he delve into the magnificent world of Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey. Showing true intellect and creative mastery, Fforde’s novel unfolds a narrative within a world in which social hierarchy is determined by your propensity to perceive colour. Besides a romantic journey which travels into revolutionary waters, Shades of Grey is a fascinating read that pulls you into Fforde’s fictive reality as well as reconfigures ideas about the world you find yourself in today. Would recommend it to anyone!”

The Island at the Center of the World should be the next book SF reads in order for him to ask quite interesting facts about New York on the N-series of QI!”

Ebook available for To Say Nothing of the Dog, Brodeck’s Report, Watching the English, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Lotus Eaters, Shades of Grey, and The Island at the Center of the World.

Win a copy of Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi winner: Bertil Videt

Q: Besides Ottolenghi’s titles, what is your favorite cookbook?

“My favorite cookbooks have everyday recipes rather than complicated ones and a lot of beautiful food photos to inspire you more and give you an idea how the food should look like.  With that, my current favorite cookbook is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.”

“My favourite cookbook (of the moment) is without a doubt Pushpesh Pant’s India Cookbook. Although there are quite a few recipes that have wrong measurements or fail to adress vital steps in the cooking process ;-) , our home has been smelling like an Indian spice shop for months and the family (kids included) are loving our frequent excursions to India.”

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. The reason I love this cookbook is because besides cooking my greatest hobby is (vegetable) gardening. I absolutely love nature, and all that nature has to offer us, not only in the kitchen. To me a quintessential part of ‘learning how to cook’ is also understanding the vegetables we use better: what season do they grow in? What ‘family’ they are part of and what goes well together? Even though I am not a vegetarian I love this cookbook, because it challenges me to explore and experiment. What appeals to me about Madison’s book is that she also looks at the more ‘unconventional’ components of vegetables such as flowers. I love trying new things when I cook, and love to be surprised by tastes that go well together. Learning about food helps me to learn more about the world and also about the human body.”

“Ok yes, I love Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. Sami Tamimi is great too, but no one ever mentions him?  My next favorite cookbook is Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij. My mother is Italian and remarried my stepdad who is Iranian when I was just a wee thing. She used it to connect with his family and culture and I use it now when I’m feeling homesick (living as an expat in Amsterdam).”

“Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef. It’s the first cookbook I got as a teenager, and it was the one that started my passion for cooking, and reading cook books for pleasure!”
Blogmistress’s note: The Naked Chef is currently not available (why Penguin? WHY?), but the follow-ups The Return of the Naked Chef and Happy Days with the Naked Chef are.

Terre a Terre: The Vegetarian Cookbook by Amanda Powley.”

“Oh that is such a tough question! It depends a bit on what I’m cooking/baking? I have a Turkish cookbook by Jale Balci which has simple menus, 3-4 dishes per menu, lightness based on the season. They are not what you would call fancy as Ottolenghi dishes would be, but they can wow unsuspecting guests.  When it comes to baking, I really like yogurt cake recipes from Smitten Kitchen’s website, though I do have one of those 500 muffin recipes cookbooks to go to as well.  As you can see, I’m also terrible at choosing favorites :)

“My favorite cookbook is the first one I ever bought and aptly describes how I (still) am: Clueless in the Kitchen by Evelyn Raab. Though I have used other cookbooks, I will never forget what got me in the kitchen in the first place.”

“My favorite cookbook, besides the ones by Ottolenghi, is  The Jewish Kitchen by Claudia Roden. I have the two editions with the different covers and she even signed them for me at a book meeting!”
Blogmistress’s note: I think the entrant meant The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden (of which there is a US edition as well as a UK edition) or The Jewish Kitchen by Clarissa Hyman.  If there is indeed a Jewish Kitchen by Claudia Roden then it is no longer in print, alas.

“It’s hard to pick one! I use all of my cookbooks whenever I need inspiration or just want to cook my favourite dish. But If I would have to pick one, then it would be 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know.  It is my go-to cookbook for basics but also for great recipes like No Guy Required Grilled Steak, Forget the Mistake You Made at Work Margarita and Bribe a Kid Brownies.”

“Besides Ottolenghi’s titles, my favorite cookbook is Jamie’s America.”

“Besides Ottolenghi’s books I love one Dutch cookbook named 5 ingrediënten. The thing I love about this book is that it is simple, no fuzz and every recipe only holds 5 ingredients, so no long shopping lists or missing out on ingredients and the recipes are easy to adjust when you are a vegetarian (like me).”

“As a new vegetarian, I certainly have appreciated Ottolenghi’s Plenty. Another book that has been helpful is Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure. It helped me prepare meals not only without meat, but also delicious and nutritious. Looking forward to trying out some of Ottolenghi’s new recipes.”

“My favourite cook book, beside Ottolenghi, is Mad (food) by the Danish chef Henrik Boserup.”

Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen.”

“My favorite cookbook is the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. I know everything in it is unhealthy, I KNOW, but it’s got a lot of those comfort recipes that are kind of old classics. :)

Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.  Got me through university in a healthy, fit and tasty way!”

“Other than Ottolenghi, I like the New Basics. It’s a pretty standard/classic but always has great background info and lovely (and useful) illustrations. Their turkey and stuffing recipe is the BEST EVER and works great with Ottolenghi veggie dishes!”

“I would love to win Ottolenghi’s new cook book Plenty More, as I am very eager to try it. I absolute love his cook book Plenty, it is my favorite. I have many cook books, but actually I only use 4 of them: my favorite Plenty, but also Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moscovitz, Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon and the Dutch Plant Power by Lisette Kreischer. As you can see: all focused on a plant-powered kitchen, centered on veggies!  I am also very much looking forward to Sarah Britton’s (from My New Roots) new cook book.”

River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  Hugh is just so passionate about vegetables (and so am I). This book is such eye candy (the photographs and layout are beautiful), it is easy to read and packed with relatively simple recipes for real people with normal kitchens. Real food is the future!!”

Fast, Fresh, Simple by Donna Hay, simple delicious recipes that can be whipped up with minimal fuss, truly a working dad/mom’s go-to guide after a long day of work, and you still want to nutritionally feed your family.”

“Just as Ottolenghi emphasizes vegetables, Janet Fletcher does the same in Pasta Harvest, my very favorite cookbook!”
Blogmistress’s note: Pasta Harvest is currently not in print, but can be ordered through our supplier of second-hand books.

“Tessa Kiros, Ciao Bella (English title: Venezia: Food and Dreams).  Excellent book with great treats from Venice.”

“My favorite cookbook is Matt Preston’s 100 Best Recipes.”
Blogmistress’s note: We can’t get this delectable book, unfortunately.  All too often this is the case with books from Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  UK and US publishers, get on the ball!

“As difficult as it is to choose an alternative to Ottolenghi’s selection…I have one work that comes to mind immediately:  Vefa’s Kitchen, by Vefa Alexiadou – a comprehensive Greek culinary resource.  It’s a great complement to Ottolenghi’s work, and for me personally a nostalgic journey back to my early years living in Crete.  I traveled to London last year and visited his restaurants – a wonderful experience. And he is also such a lovely man…with a connection to Amsterdam as well!”

“Not really a cookbook but The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz is to me a great inspiration to experiment to ferment, bake sourdough bread and to preserve the crops of my kitchen-garden.”

“My favorite cookbook is Recettes pour bien vivre by Manfred Meeuwig because it has wonderful Dutch recipes from times gone by and proves that Dutch cuisine used to be fantastic.”

“Approximately 15 years ago I bought Marion Cunningham´s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book (at ABC of course). It´s a passion of mine to bake every cookie and cake in my household and I can state that every recipe out of this cookbook is correct en very tasteful.  What´s extra nice about this book: it has a fantastic Index. An individual ingredient can be traced to a fantastic recipe.  In the course of these 15 years it has become my baking bible with lots of personal notations.”
Blogmistress’s note: The Fannie Farmer Baking Book is currently not in print, unfortunately, but The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is.

The Joy of Cooking is one of my most favorite cookbooks. It’s so comprehensive. You can find plenty of exotic recipes, yet the clear instructions and explanations make it perfect for beginners. My copy is falling apart and splattered with sauces and batter, but I love it because I really learned how to cook with this book.”

“Without a doubt, my favorite other cookbook is one of the two old-fashioned Dutch recipe books from my grandmother: the Kookboek from the Amsterdamse Huishoudschool. This book has all the classics, most of them I will never make, but every time I need just a basic recipe or information about a technique, I’ll automatically grab this book.”

“Besides Ottolenghi, I love Appetite by Nigel Slater and Flour by Joanne Chang.”

“My favorite cookbook is the original vegan cookbook by the Post Punk Kitchen: Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskovitz.”

“Besides Plenty More my favorite cookbook is The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken. A classic for all the great amateur chefs out there (ha-ha).”

“Aside from these, my most referenced cookbook is Tiptopf, which is actually a classic Swiss school book with basics on ingredients, nutrition and cooking styles. It’s a must in all Swiss house holds!”

“Besides Ottolenghi’s titles, my favorite cookbook is The Wagamama Cookbook by Hugo Arnold.  Wagamama is a lovely Asian restaurant in Amsterdam, that my boyfriend introduced me to.”

The Burger Kap-ow!

“My favorite cookbook is Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry.  She was ahead of her time by making this book.  All of the recipes are very inspiring, fool proof and you can taste all around the Mediterranean.”

Veganomicon!”

Ebook available for PlentyThe Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Clueless in the Kitchen, The Book of Jewish Food, 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know, The Vegetarian Epicure, Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, The New Basics Cookbook, River Cottage Veg Every Day!, The Art of Fermentation, Flour, Vegan with a Vengeance, I Hate to Cook Book and Veganomicon.

Win a bespoke redesigned classic!

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

ABC The Hague’s Fiction buyer Simone fell in love with bookbinding a few years ago. She has created so many little treasures now that she can be found manning stalls at craft fairs in her spare time (look for De Papier Handel). A recent project of hers has been to rescue classic books that were falling apart from re-reading. Four of the results can be seen below: To Kill a Mockingbird, Winesburg, Ohio, Pride and Prejudice, and Of Mice and Men (click on each picture to see a bigger version). They are truly one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted gems.

One of these treasures – of your choosing – can be yours, simply by answering the following question:

Which classic in your bookcase would you let Simone give the bespoke redesigned treatment to, and why?

Please mail your answer + which one of the four titles you would like to take home to win@abc.nl before October 15th, and include “Bespoke Classics” in the subject header.

The other three titles will be on sale at ABC The Hague for €14,95 after October 15th. If you really do want Simone to work her magic on one of the deserving books in your bookcase then please mail her for more information at info@depapierhandel.com.

ABC Talks To: author Colette Caddle

Friday, September 26th, 2014

On September 14th,  Colette Caddle was at the ABC Treehut in The Hague for a writing workshop at the invitation of the Irish Club.  Colette is the author of fourteen best-selling books, including First We Take Manhattan, Every Time We Say Goodbye and The Secrets We Keep.  She very kindly agreed to be interviewed by me prior to the workshop, and she was just as lovely as can be.  :-)

Have you ever been to the Netherlands?

Only once before, on a day trip from Antwerp with my husband. Our train broke down, though, so in the end we only spent a few hours in central Amsterdam rather than the entire day.  It’s so nice to have a few days in The Hague now.  When we arrived you saw all the modern architecture, but there are so many nice older areas, too.  And I just saw the rehearsal for Prinsjesdag!

Have you any favorite books featuring the Netherlands or Dutch people?

Not really, no, sorry.  The problem is that there are so many books out there, and when I’m writing I can’t read.  I get too distracted and I worry I start writing like whoever I’m reading, or I read something so great that I get disheartened and think “Why do I even bother?”.  So I don’t read when I write, and when I do have the time to read there is always a great big pile of books to choose from already.  And a lot of those are from friends that have books out, too.

Yes, speaking of which: what is in the Irish water that so many bestselling authors hail from there? (Only 6 million inhabitants!)

I’m not sure!  It’s in the blood, I suppose.  We are storytellers.  I don’t call my books “novels”, but rather stories, and I love telling them.  They can also be set anywhere, because we all have the same problems and issues.  I just happen to really like living in Dublin and Ireland so they’re generally set there.

Your books focus on relationships and overcoming hardships. You also mention in the FAQs on your website that boredom inspired you to write your first book. I assume that, 14 books later, that’s not the case anymore. But what does inspire you to keep writing, then?

Well, I really didn’t like my job at the time, and reading for me has always been about escapism.  So I was having a tough time at work, and I would sit on my own at lunch and read a book.  Then I read a terrible one, and I thought “Well, I can do better than that!”.  So I wrote a few chapters, and a friend knew Patricia Scanlan, and she told me to send it off to a publisher.  I did, and two days later I got a call that they wanted to publish it.  Nowadays you’re supposed to get an agent first who then goes to the publishers for you, but back then I did it backwards!  I got the publisher first and the agent next.

I only had a few chapters, though, but the publisher had a wonderful editor who really helped me with the rest of the story.  I would write something, she would read it and then say “Oh no, this is so out of character!”.  She talked about the characters in the book as if they were real.  We would meet up at her house, her husband would be cooking something and in the kitchen the three of us would discuss the book.

Halfway through that first book she died, however, and a week later my father died.  It’s a miracle that book, Too Little, Too Late, was ever written.  I really felt it was my duty to her to finish it.

As for inspiration for future books, well, I always get ideas everywhere I go.  They generally go on the back burner.  My books are contemporary, so they will reflect the times.  I’ve seen, with the crisis going on, people who have lost the safety of their jobs, and who have gone on to find a career doing something they truly loved.  That’s also the case with my latest book, First We Take Manhattan.  The main characters start their own millinery business, and it’s tiny, but they are doing what they love.  And with hard work and sheer luck they become successful.  That’s a combination that’s also true for success in real life.

Have you ever considered writing in other genres? If so, what genre?

Yes!  The past few books have been going steadily darker anyway, but I was asked to write a novella for an adult literacy program in Ireland, the Open Door series.  I had to write a story that would appeal to both men and women, in somewhat simplified English, and it turned into a crime novella.  The focus is still on relationships, but I got to write about the crime and the mystery, too.

If I do write in another genre I will write under a pseudonym, though.  My name is tied to a particular genre now, and I owe it to my readers to keep writing those stories.  They’ve supported me for so long!

You have some wonderful writing tips on your website (Don’t prevaricate; Be yourself; Show don’t tell; Plan the timeline; etc.). Which of your own tips do you find the hardest to follow?

Procrastination!  (Or “Discipline” on my website.)  It’s so hard to not get distracted!  I will allow myself to change the decor of the room, or anything else I notice that needs changing, once I finish the book.  My friends all tell me I’m happier when I’m writing a book, and I’ve noticed that too.  So I should just keep writing.

Do you think self-publishing (for example, via the Espresso Book Machine) is the way to go, or should aspiring writers still submit their manuscripts to traditional publishing houses?

I think you should try the traditional publishers first, because they offer professional editors.  There is nothing more important to me and my books than a good editor.  They give truthful advice that your family, for example, can’t give.  Your family will either be too kind or too cruel.

That’s not to say that self-publishing is a bad idea.  But I do think that, when I read self-published books, parts are missing that an editor could help fill or take out.  I highly recommend that, if you are self-publishing, you spend money on a good, professional editor.

Paper, digital or audio?

Definitely not audio, because that’s too much like TV to me.  I prefer to hear the characters in my head.  I think there’s room for both paper and digital.  I’ve found that people who love a book on their ereader will buy the paper version to have in their bookcases.

Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Fiction, because real life is too horrible at the moment!  If I do want to read non-fiction, it will generally be a biography.

What was your favorite book when you were growing up?

All the books by Enid Blyton.  Also, from school, Jane Austen.  I still have my school copies of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.

Who is your literary crush? (Or was, when you were younger.)

Mr. Darcy!  I loved that he seemed one way and turned out to be something else.  And I loved the fact that Lizzie and he learned to accept their shortcomings and love each other.

Have you ever bought a book for its cover?

Gosh!  I don’t think so.  Because I know so many authors I usually buy a book because it was recommended to me by them or because I know the writer.

What book changed your life?

Hmmm, I don’t believe in a book changing your life.  I will tell you the books that have touched me the most, though: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  You read those stories and you think “that’s still going on in the world today.”  It’s so easy to be humane from afar.

Have you ever faked reading a book?

Oh, gosh!  I haven’t faked reading a book, but I have not been able to finish books.  Classics or award-winning books that everyone claims are great, for example.  If they are too filled with negativity I find it very off-putting, so I’d rather not finish it and read something else.

What are you reading now?

Nothing because I’m editing my latest book.